2018 Sound recording expedition


Do you want to join me on a sound recording trip to the Congo basin rainforest? I'm still at the planning stages, but this sort of trip requires early and careful preparation so I'm announcing it well in advance.

I want to spend 3 to 4 weeks in the central African rainforest in October-November this year. I plan on flying to Libreville in Gabon and hiring a few 4x4s with drivers. The main targets are national parks in Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon. I'm aiming for a small group of 2, 4 or 6 sound recordists, 2 per vehicle plus driver.

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbdodane

The main target is Gabon, a country about the size of the UK. Roughly 85% of Gabon's land is covered in rainforest, and more than 80% of its small population lives in urban areas. This interesting mix provides excellent recording opportunities since anthropophony should be limited and wilderness easy to find.

From Gabon we can theoretically cross into the Republic of the Congo (not the DRC) where we can visit the Odzala-Kokoua National Park and Lossi animal sanctuary. We can also cross into Cameroon where we can visit national parks like Nki and Lobéké. This will depend on factors like the ease of obtaining a visa/tourist permits and the state of the roads. None of these areas are off-limits according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but things can change so I will keep an eye out in case it happens.

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/janhamlet1/

Main recording targets:

  • huge variety of bird species (estimates vary but some sources mention more than 1000)
  • large populations of forest elephants (over 50,000), hippos, forest buffalo
  • primate species like the Western lowland gorilla (over a quarter of Africa's remaining population), mandrills, chimpanzees, mangabeys and other monkeys
  • leopards, golden cats, jackals, mongooses
  • 3 species of crocodile

There will be opportunities to record the ethnic music of the local Baka people (formerly and unrespectfully called Pygmies). We might also do some urban, rural and vehicle recording but this is not the main focus of the trip.

Tourism infrastructure in Gabon is poor to nonexistent, but this is actually a blessing in disguise. We won't have to deal with noisy photographers, birders or safaris, we will not be waiting in line to see wildlife and we'll have many of these places to ourselves.

Accommodation will be anything from guest houses and mud huts to wild camping and staying with locals. Outside urban areas we will eat what the locals eat and we'll bring our own water to drink.

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